Living with Diabetes
It can be lonely being a kid with Type 1 insulin-dependent diabetes. You feel different than other kids, says 16-year-old Hailey Ordal of Phoenix. That's something teens definitely don't want, she adds.(email corrected from previous version).
The sprightly Hailey, who loves playing piano and taking her Corgi to dog shows, learned a year ago, after battling the classic symptoms of fatigue, weight loss, hunger and thirst, that she has so-called juvenile diabetes and must inject herself with insulin four times a day for the rest of her life.
"When I heard, I knew it was bad. I was really upset," says Hailey. "I thought I'd be stuck in this hospital all my life. I thought I'd done this to myself."
Over the months, Hailey learned the ropes — how to prick her finger and see whether her blood sugar was in the safe range, and how to inject insulin with a tiny needle in her leg or stomach. She knows there is no cure and this is now part of her lifestyle.
Hailey has learned she can do anything normal kids can do, but she has to focus on eating a lot more fiber and vegetables — no high-carb stuff like pizza and ice cream — and she has to calculate what foods will lift glucose and what exercises will take it down. She tests and injects accordingly.
Life is under control now, except for one missing piece: Kids her age who are in the same boat and with whom she can play, hang, talk and enjoy without having to hide the disease and its treatment.
So, Hailey is starting a support group for youths with Type 1 diabetes and their families. They will meet from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Sunday, March 2, at St. Mary's School, 816 Black Oak Drive, Medford, where she is a sophomore.
There is no preregistration; just walk in. Hailey's vision is that the kids will hang out together and talk — and the parents will talk among themselves.
They will share ideas and strategies for living with Type 1 diabetes, including how to travel, and they'll talk about issues such as whether to use insulin pumps as compared to injections. Individual friendships and activities may spring from that, she says.
"A big issue," says her mother, Kathy Ordal, "is that kids don't want to be different from other kids. If they all have it in a group, you're not different."
Parents must undergo a lot of education about the disease and can share that in group, says Kathy.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder, she notes, in which the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas get identified as invaders and are destroyed, so they can't dispose of sugar in blood and urine. Injecting insulin rebalances that process.
"Parents have to think about what foods my child can have, because all foods are potentially toxic," Kathy adds. "It's a lot of stress. They have to check themselves every 20 minutes during exercise. There's a lot of surveillance. You have to talk to the school nurse and be pretty involved."
About 1.7 out of 1,000 Americans get Type 1 diabetes, so Kathy estimates there could be a couple hundred such kids in Jackson County schools — and many of them may like some new friends.
Hailey can be reached at email@example.com
John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.